Forever Love – Exodus 20:4-6

“You shall not make for yourselves an image in the form of anything in heaven above or earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations for those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:4-6, NIV).

These verses are the 2nd Commandment of the Ten Commandments. Although I’ve read and repeated the 2nd Commandment many times, I’ve never paid much attention to the second part of the commandment, which explains the consequences of obeying or not obeying the commandment.

But, God uses the pronouncement of a curse and blessing in the 2nd Commandment to make a striking contrast between the everlasting effects of His boundless love for those who worship and obey Him with the exigency of punishment for idolators.

Noticeably, the curse and the blessing are not equally proportioned. While the curse is prolonged to three or four generations, the blessing extends to a thousand generations–that is, forever love!

The consequences of idolatry or belief are both explained with hyperbole. But, the hyperbole is even more exaggerated concerning God’s love and grace. God’s blessing for his obedient people far, far exceeds His curse on disobedient people.

Worshiping the Living God by loving and obeying Him carries a blessing that is exponentially better than is the punishment for idolatry. God showing His love to a thousand generations is the promise of eternal life!

Idolatry is the worship of something other than the Living God. God construes idolatry as animosity towards Him–hating God and making Him your enemy. When you make God your enemy, then you become His enemy.

Idolatry is like committing treason toward God, which is a spiritual crime so egregious that it carries the death penalty according to this commandment.

So, this commandment teaches us a  lesson in God’s character. Clearly, God prefers to apportion blessing rather than curse–to give life, eternal life, to the people who love and obey Him.

Because, God’s love is forever!

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. (Psalm 100:5, NIV)

The Crooked Path – Ecclesiastes 7:13-14

“Consider God’s work! Who can straighten what God has made crooked? When times are good, enjoy the good; when times are bad, consider: God has made the former as well as the latter so that people can’t discover anything that will come to be after them” (Ecclesiastes 7:13-14, CEB).

How great is God’s work in His Creation. God knows exactly how He has made us and what we need to live fulfilling lives.

These verses notify us that although God is sovereign, our lives aren’t predetermined. Good times and bad times are both part of life. They make life a crooked path.

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Passing Muster – Exodus 30:11-14

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the Lord a ransom for his life at the time he is counted. Then no plague will come on them when you number them. Each one who crosses over to those already counted is to give a half shekel… This half shekel is an offering to the Lord. All who cross over, those twenty years old or more, are to give an offering to the Lord'” (Exodus 30:13-14, NIV).

The census was actually a way to determine a record of military manpower. But, when Moses enlisted men for military service, he was also to take a ransom from each twenty-year-old or more male and use it for the construction and ministry of the Tabernacle.

“Crossing over to those already counted” literally meant passing over to those who are mustered. It meant joining the ranks of the enlisted men. By passing muster the Israelite male effectively became a soldier in the Israeli militia–the Lord’s army.

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Ethics: When You Behave Like You Believe – Proverbs 21:3


“To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice” (Proverbs 21:3, NIV).

Sometimes we don’t behave consistently with what we believe–or we claim to believe. What we purport is not how we comport!

Our behavior is defined by our beliefs–what we really, really believe, not what we say we believe.

It’s called ethics.

When we are more concerned with pleasing others, going along, or not standing out from the crowd than we are about doing the right thing, then we compromise what we believe.  We behave unethically.

And, it begs the question: If you don’t behave it, do you really believe it?

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Annoying God – Genesis 32:24-30

“So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for it is daybreak.’ But Jacob replied, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ … Then he blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.'” (Genesis 32:22-30, NIV).

The method Jacob used here to obtain God’s blessing seems rather counter-intuitive to our innocuous efforts in seeking God. While we think we must approach God with religious formality and terminology to obtain His blessing, Jacob used an alternative methodology.  Jacob wrestled with and held on to God until God blessed him.

Prior to his wrestling match with God, Jacob was in the throes of a dilemma. God had commanded him to repatriate the land He had promised to Jacob’s father and grandfather, Isaac and Abraham. But, in order to do so Jacob had to confront his estranged brother, Esau–from whom Jacob had stolen his birthright–and Esau’s army of 400 men.

Anticipating a disastrous outcome to his rendezvous with Esau, Jacob had taken his family to a safe place. Then, Jacob proceeded to a place where he could be alone to seek God and plead for deliverance from Esau and reassure himself that he was doing God’s will by returning to the promised land. There, he encountered a man (an angel or theophany) and wrestled with him all night.

Jacob knew that he was wrestling with God (or God’s messenger) and gripped Him until the man promised God’s protection and deliverance on his journey to and settlement in the promised land. Despite the man wounding Jacob’s hip, Jacob continued to grasp the man until He agreed to bless him.

Jacob was what you might call indefatigable. Indefatigable means not yielding to fatigue, incapable of being tired out. Tireless or persistence is the more common way to describe this trait. Annoying and even obnoxious is this attribute carried to the extreme.

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The Wrestling Match – Genesis 32:27-31

“He said to Jacob, ‘What’s your name?’ and he said, ‘Jacob.’ Then he said, ‘Your name won’t be Jacob any longer, but Israel, because you struggled with God and with men and won.’ Jacob also asked and said, ‘Tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why do you ask for my name?’ and he blessed Jacob there. Jacob named the place Peniel, ‘because I’ve seen God face-to-face, and my life has been saved.’ The sun rose as Jacob passed Penuel, limping because of his thigh” (Genesis 32:27-31,CEB).

I once heard it preached that choosing to believe Jesus was the Son of God and died for our sins so we could have eternal life was more plausible than choosing not to believe.  Because, if you believed and got to the end of your life and it wasn’t true, you still lived a good life with no regrets. But, if you didn’t believe and it was true then you risked a dreadful eternity.

In other words, it is more logical (and eternally safe) to believe in God than not to believe. And, we get to choose…

While our modern minds try to analyze everything, even faith in God, and make it logical and rational and human-centric, the biblical pattern is actually something quite different: God chooses us and we choose whether to accept His challenge or not.

And, it’s not like a debate.

It’s more like a wrestling match!

In fact, struggling with God is the normal Christian life.

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Why? – John 12:27

“Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came!” (John 12:27, NLT).

Recently, I’ve been reading Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why. The premise of the book is that successful leaders influence loyalty to a product, movement or idea because they communicate why their organizations exist. According to Sinek, knowing your why is more important than  knowing what you do or how you do it. And, knowing your why will help you know what to do and how to do it.

So, apply this on a personal level. What’s your why? Why do you exist? Why do you do what you do?

In a conversation in John 12 that Jesus had with some of His disciples concerning His impending death, He seemed to be very aware of His Why. He knew exactly why He existed and why He did what He did.

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